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ZiTA nurtures Midlands talen
Stephen Chifunyise - Herald Online

ZiTA nurtures Midlands Talent

n an move intended to grow theatre talent at grassroots level, the Zimbabwe Theatre Association Midlands Provincial Cluster in collaboration with Perfect Works Theatre has launched an ambitious

programme of bringing into regular performances theatre productions from primary schools.

The programme began as the ZiTA commemoration of the International Day for Theatre for Children and Young People through an International Children’s Theatre Day Gala held in Gweru and featuring seven primary school theatre groups.

The gala, which was presented in two parts, was held on May 29 at Bumburwi Primary School and on May 31 at Gweru Theatre featured theatre groups from Midlands Christian School, Lundi Park Primary, St Paul’s Primary, Bumburwi Primary, Takwirira Primary, Takabuda Primary and Riverside Primary .

Lloyd Phiri of Perfect Works Theatre and the ZiTA Midlands Cluster co-ordinator, who was one of the facilitators of this grassroots theatre development programme, explained that primary school groups which were invited to the programme were encouraged to create short plays on the theme “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Phiri indicated the theme was intended to assist children “to appreciate that they should treat each other as brothers and sisters”.

According to Phiri, all the theatre productions from the seven primary schools at both venues did not disappoint. He quoted one play where children encouraged each to dress modestly and avoid showing off to those children who do not have good clothes.

The children quoted the Book of Deuteronomy: “If there be among you a poor man of one thy brethren thou shall not harden thine heart nor shut thine hand from thy brother.”

In another play the children used Mother Teresa’s popular saying: “The worst disease is being unwanted.” In this piece the children indicated that in some instances their parents were not educating them on how to treat other children as brothers and sisters.

Phiri singled out one play which he thought was an excellent example of the enormous creative talent of schoolchildren.

This was a play done “in a set-up of a grandmother telling her grandchildren folk-tales that teach the concept of love, sharing and caring”.

He further observed in his analysis of the content of the theatre pieces performed on both days Bumburwi School and Gweru Theatre that one of the plays clearly brought out the aspect of favouritism practiced by parents — a practice the children strongly discouraged.

This ZiTA approach to theatre development at grassroots level is premised on two critical creative initiatives. The first is the prescription of themes that guide the children in their creation of short theatre pieces for performance to an audience of fellow children in a non-competitive environment.

The second creative initiative is one where children from different schools are put into groups where they work together to create short plays on a common theme. In this exercise, the children learn to create together and to respect each other’s ideas, knowledge and experiences.

In the exercise of May 31, at Gweru Theatre, the children were tasked to create short plays on the subject of the prevalence of HIV/Aids in their communities. According to Phiri, even though the children were given a short time to mix, know each other, talk of the subject and create plays, the results were astounding.

“The aspect of unity of purpose was brought out through the exceptionally good plays the children created. The short productions showed that there is enormous talent and passion for theatre among these children.

“These young artistes brought out in their plays issues of segregation of people living with HIV/Aids. The children also expressed hope that their parents would appreciate the need for being faithful to each other.”

The ZiTA assessment of this project is that teachers in charge of drama clubs in primary schools are in desperate need of training in different aspects of the theatre production that could be provided by theatre professionals in the province.

Perfect Works Theatre and the ZiTA Midlands Cluster team are convinced that with sponsorship, professional theatre practitioners in the province can be organised into teams that can run regular theatre skills training for teachers .

The next ZiTA Midlands Cluster theatre programmes to be held at the Gweru Theatre are the Day of the African Child Theatre Gala scheduled for June 20 and the Sisters in Theatre Performances on July 11.

ZiTA hopes that these programmes will help to re-establish Gweru Theatre as a regular theatre venue accessed by all theatre lovers in the city.

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